First Image Captured by NASAs Jupiter bound Juno; Earth – Moon Portrait

Earth & Moon Portrait - First Photo transmitted from Jupiter Bound Juno. This image of Earth (on the left) and the moon (on the right) was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft on Aug. 26, 2011, when the spacecraft was about 6 million miles (9.66 million kilometers) away. It was taken by the spacecraft's onboard camera, JunoCam. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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NASA’s solar powered Jupiter bound Juno orbiter has captured her first image – a beautiful portrait of the Earth & Moon – since the probe blasted off from the home planet.

Juno lifted off 25 days ago at 12: 25 p.m. on August 5 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft snapped the portrait with the onboard JunoCam camera on August 26 after journeying some 6 million miles (9.66 million km) from Earth and while traveling at a velocity of 77,600 miles per hour (124,900 kilometers per hour) relative to the sun.

“The image of the Earth Moon system is a rather unique perspective that we can get only by stepping outside of our home planet,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, in an exclusive interview with Universe Today. Bolton is from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

“On our way to Jupiter, we’ve looked back at home and managed to take this amazing image.”

“Earth looking much like any other planet or star from a distance is glorious as this somewhat average looking “star” is home to all of humanity. Our companion, the moon, so beautiful and important to us, stands out even less.”

“We appear almost average and inconspicuous, yet all of our history originates here. It makes one wonder just how many other planets or solar systems might contain life like ours,” Bolton told me.

Juno casts a shadow back toward Earth and Space Shuttle Launch Pad 39A and the shuttle crawler way (at left) seconds after liftoff from adjacent Launch Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. View from the VAB Roof. Credit: Ken Kremer

The Juno team commanded the probe to take the image as part of the checkout phase of the vehicles instruments and subsystems.

“The JunoCam instrument turn on and check out were planned activities. The instrument is working great and in fact, all the instruments that we’ve turned on thus far have been working great,” Bolton added.

So far the spacecraft is in excellent health and the team has completed the checkout of the Waves instrument and its two Flux Gate Magnetometer sensors and deployment of its V-shaped electric dipole antenna.

“We have a couple more instruments still to do,” Bolton noted.

The team reports that Juno also performed its first precession, or reorientation maneuver, using its thrusters and that the first trajectory control maneuver (TCM-1) was cancelled as unnecessary because of the extremely accurate targeting provided by the Atlas V rocket.

The portrait shot is actually not Juno’s last photo of her home.

The 8000 pound (3,600 kilogram) probe will fly by Earth once more on October 9, 2013 for a gravity assisted speed boost of 16,330 MPH (7.3 km/sec) to accelerate Juno past the asteroid belt on its long journey to the Jovian system.

Juno soars skyward to Jupiter on Aug. 5 from launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:25 p.m. EDT. View from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer

JunoCam will collect new photos and the other science instruments will make measurements as Juno cartwheels past Earth during the slingshot to Jupiter.

Juno is on a 5 year and 1.7 Billion mile (2.8 Billion km) trek to the largest planet in our solar system. When she arrives at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, Juno will become the first polar orbiting spacecraft at the gas giant.

During a one year science mission – entailing 33 orbits lasting 11 days each – the probe will plunge to within about 3000 miles (5000 km) of the turbulent cloud tops and collect unprecedented new data that will unveil the hidden inner secrets of Jupiter’s genesis and evolution.

The goal is to find out more about the planets origins, interior structure and atmosphere, observe the aurora, map the intense magnetic field and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core.

“This is a remarkable sight people get to see all too rarely,” said Bolton in a NASA statement about the Earth-Moon photo. “This view of our planet shows how Earth looks from the outside, illustrating a special perspective of our role and place in the universe. We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Juno mission. The spacecraft was designed and built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

Juno and Booster Streak Across the Stars
NASA's Juno spacecraft and its spent Centaur upper rocket stage are captured in this telescope view as they move across the field of stars. The five-minute, timed exposure was acquired on Aug. 5 11:18pm Eastern time (Aug. 6 at 3:18 UTC) when Juno was at a distance of about 195,000 miles (314,000 kilometers) from Earth. The images were taken remotely by amateur astronomer Scott Ferguson using Global Rent-a-Scope's GRAS-016 Takahashi Widefield Refractor, which is located in Nerpio, Spain. Credit: Scott Ferguson
Juno Spacecraft Cruise Trajectory to Jupiter
This graphic shows Juno's trajectory, or flight path, from Earth to Jupiter. The spacecraft travels around the Sun, to a point beyond the orbit of Mars where it fires its main engine a couple of times. These deep space maneuvers set up the Earth flyby maneuver that occurs approximately two years after launch. The Earth flyby gives Juno the boost in velocity it needs to coast all the way to Jupiter. Juno arrives at Jupiter in July 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
View of Juno’s position on Aug. 24, 2011 nearly 6 million miles distant from Earth visualized by NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System website.

Read my continuing features about Juno
Juno Blasts off on Science Trek to Discover Jupiter’s Genesis
Juno Jupiter Orbiter poised at Launch Pad for Aug. 5 Blastoff
JUNO Orbiter Mated to Mightiest Atlas rocket for Aug. 5 Blastoff to Jupiter
Solar Powered Jupiter bound JUNO lands at Kennedy Space Center

In Their Own Words: Experts Talk Juno

Several scientists and experts discussed the Juno mission to Jupiter with Universe Today. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. – Many experts took time out of their hectic schedules to talk with Universe Today in the day leading up to the launch of the Juno spacecraft. Some even took the time to talk to us just minutes before the probe was scheduled to be launched on its mission. Check out what they had to say below:

Juno Project Scientist Steve Levin was at Kennedy Space Center to watch the Juno probe begin its five-year journey to Jupiter. He took a few minutes of his time to talk about what his expectations are for this mission.

Levin has been with JPL since 1990, one of the previous projects he worked on is the Planck mission which launched in 2009.

Levin believes that Juno could fundamentally change the way we view Jupiter. He was one of many VIPs that descended on Kennedy Space Center to watch as Juno thundered to orbit atop at Atlas V rocket.

Sami Asmar is part of the science team that is working on the Juno project. He was at the rollout of the Atlas rocket to the pad. Here is what he had to say about the mission (note the Atlas rocket moving out behind him).

Bill Nye the Science Guy was a very busy man while at Kennedy Space Center. He still took the time to chat with Universe Today about his views on this mission. Unfortunately, with little time to spare, we had to conduct the interview within minutes of the first launch attempt. A good chunk of Nye’s interview – was drowned out by the lead up to the countdown!

The usual launch of an Atlas consists of the launch team coming in, pushing a button and going home – the launch vehicle is that reliable. This day, things occurred quite differently. A technical issue coupled with a wayward boat that had drifted too close to the launch pad saw the launch time slip from 11:34 a.m. EDT to 12:25 p.m. When the rocket did take off however it was a spectacular sight to behold, faster than other iterations of the Atlas, it roared off the pad, sending Juno on its way to Jupiter.

Juno Spacecraft Honors Those Who Started It All

Juno begins its five-year journey to the planet Jupiter. On board are several artifacts meant to honor the history of the gas giant. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com

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The Juno spacecraft, now safely on its way to the planet Jupiter, is carrying along with it several artifacts in honor of its voyage. Onboard the probe are three, tiny figurines of key players in the mythological and historical background of the gas giant. LEGO figurines of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei have had their 1.5-inch likenesses added to the voyage.

In Roman mythology Jupiter had cast a veil of clouds over himself to hide his activities. Undeterred, his wife, Juno, peered through the clouds to see Jupiter’s true nature. Hence, her representation onboard the Juno spacecraft – is holding a spyglass. The last member of this odd ‘crew’ is Galileo, the man who made a number of important discoveries regarding the Jovian system.

From left-to-right: The Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno (with spyglass to check up on Jupiter's activities) and the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. Photo Credit: NASA

The inclusion of these three figures is part of a joint effort between NASA and the LEGO group to spark interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM in children. NASA went one step further in acknowledging the accomplishments of the man that made so many discoveries about this massive world. It has included a plaque in honor or Galileo.

During his life, Galileo contributed greatly to mankind’s understanding of the solar system. He discovered in 1610 what have since been dubbed the “Galilean moons” – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

This plaque is affixed to the Juno probe bound for Jupiter. It shows an illustration of Galileo as well as an inscription he made regarding the gas giant. Photo Credit: NASA

The plaque was donated by the Italian Space Agency and it measures 2.8 by 2 inches (71 by 51 millimeters). The plaque is manufactured from flight grade aluminum and weighs six grams or about 0.2 ounces. The plaque includes an illustration of the famous astronomer along with an inscription – in his own hand – a passage he made in 1610 concerning his observations of Jupiter. The inscription reads:

“On the 11th it was in this formation — and the star closest to Jupiter was half the size than the other and very close to the other so that during the previous nights all of the three observed stars looked of the same dimension and among them equally afar; so that it is evident that around Jupiter there are three moving stars invisible till this time to everyone.”

Juno thunders to orbit, with three very odd crew members on board. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Juno successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 at 12:25 p.m. EDT on Friday, August 5. It will take the probe about five years to reach Jupiter. Once there it will enter in a polar orbit around the world where it will use its suite of instruments to peer beneath the veil of Jupiter’s clouds to study the planet’s gravity, magnetosphere and whether-or-not the planet has a rocky core.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the Juno spacecraft.

It will take the Juno spacecraft five years to reach Jupiter. Each one of its massive solar arrays is about the size of a tractor-trailer. Image Credit: NASA